Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,
Eze 19:1-14. Elegy over the Fall of David's House.
There is a tacit antithesis between this lamentation and that of the Jews for their own miseries, into the causes of which, however, they did not inquire.
1. princes of Israel—that is, Judah, whose "princes" alone were recognized by prophecy; those of the ten tribes were, in respect to the theocracy, usurpers.
And say, What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions.
2. thy mother—the mother of Jehoiachin, the representative of David's line in exile with Ezekiel. The "mother" is Judea: "a lioness," as being fierce in catching prey (Eze 19:3), referring to her heathenish practices. Jerusalem was called Ariel (the lion of God) in a good sense (Isa 29:1); and Judah "a lion's whelp … a lion … an old lion" (Ge 49:9), to which, as also to Nu 23:24; 24:9, this passage alludes.
nourished … among young lions—She herself had "lain" among lions, that is, had intercourse with the corruptions of the surrounding heathen and had brought up the royal young ones similarly: utterly degenerate from the stock of Abraham.
Lay down—or "couched," is appropriate to the lion, the Arab name of which means "the coucher."
And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.
3. young lion—Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, carried captive from Riblah to Egypt by Pharaoh-necho (2Ki 23:33).
The nations also heard of him; he was taken in their pit, and they brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt.
4. The nations—Egypt, in the case of Jehoahaz, who probably provoked Pharaoh by trying to avenge the death of his father by assailing the bordering cities of Egypt (2Ki 23:29, 30).
in their pit—image from the pitfalls used for catching wild beasts (Jer 22:11, 12).
chains—or hooks, which were fastened in the noses of wild beasts (see on Eze 19:9).
Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost, then she took another of her whelps, and made him a young lion.
5. saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost—that is, that her long-waited-for hope was disappointed, Jehoahaz not being restored to her from Egypt.
she took another of her whelps—Jehoiakim, brother of Jehoahaz, who was placed on the throne by Pharaoh (2Ki 23:34), according to the wish of Judah.
And he went up and down among the lions, he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey, and devoured men.
6. went up and down among the lions—imitated the recklessness and tyranny of the surrounding kings (Jer 22:13-17).
catch … prey—to do evil, gratifying his lusts by oppression (2Ki 23:37).
And he knew their desolate palaces, and he laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring.
7. knew … desolate palaces—that is, claimed as his own their palaces, which he then proceeded to "desolate." The Hebrew, literally "widows"; hence widowed palaces (Isa 13:22). Vatablus (whom Fairbairn follows) explains it, "He knew (carnally) the widows of those whom he devoured" (Eze 19:6). But thus the metaphor and the literal reality would be blended: the lion being represented as knowing widows. The reality, however, often elsewhere thus breaks through the veil.
fulness thereof—all that it contained; its inhabitants.
Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit.
8. the nations—the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moab, and Ammon (2Ki 24:2).
And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into holds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.
9. in chains—(2Ch 36:6; Jer 22:18). Margin, "hooks"; perhaps referring to the hook often passed through the nose of beasts; so, too, through that of captives, as seen in the Assyrian sculptures (see on Eze 19:4).
voice—that is, his roaring.
no more be heard upon the mountains—carrying on the metaphor of the lion, whose roaring on the mountains frightens all the other beasts. The insolence of the prince, not at all abated though his kingdom was impaired, was now to cease.
Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.
10. A new metaphor taken from the vine, the chief of the fruit-bearing trees, as the lion is of the beasts of prey (see Eze 17:6).
in thy blood—"planted when thou wast in thy blood," that is, in thy very infancy; as in Eze 16:6, when thou hadst just come from the womb, and hadst not yet the blood washed from thee. The Jews from the first were planted in Canaan to take root there [Calvin]. Grotius translates as the Margin, "in thy quietness," that is, in the period when Judah had not yet fallen into her present troubles. English Version is better. Glassius explains it well, retaining the metaphor, which Calvin's explanation breaks, "in the blood of thy grapes," that is, in her full strength, as the red wine is the strength of the grape. Ge 49:11 is evidently alluded to.
many waters—the well-watered land of Canaan (De 8:7-9).
And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule, and her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches.
11. strong rods—princes of the royal house of David. The vine shot forth her branches like so many scepters, not creeping lowly on the ground like many vines, but trained aloft on a tree or wall. The mention of their former royal dignity, contrasting sadly with her present sunken state, would remind the Jews of their sins whereby they had incurred such judgments.
among the thick branches—that is, the central stock or trunk of the tree shot up highest "among its own branches" or offshoots, surrounding it. Emblematic of the numbers and resources of the people. Hengstenberg translates, "among the clouds." But Eze 31:3, 10, 14, supports English Version.
But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them.
12. plucked up—not gradually withered. The sudden upturning of the state was designed to awaken the Jews out of their torpor to see the hand of God in the national judgment.
east wind—(See on Eze 17:10).
And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.
13. planted—that is, transplanted. Though already "dried up" in regard to the nation generally, the vine is said to be "transplanted" as regards God's mercy to the remnant in Babylon.
dry … ground—Chaldea was well-watered and fertile; but it is the condition of the captive people, not that of the land, which is referred to.
And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.
14. fire … out of a rod of her branches—The Jews' disaster was to be ascribed, not so much to the Chaldeans as to themselves; the "fire out of the rod" is God's wrath kindled by the perjury of Zedekiah (Eze 17:18). "The anger of the Lord" against Judah is specified as the cause why Zedekiah was permitted to rebel against Babylon (2Ki 24:20; compare Jud 9:15), thus bringing Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem.
no strong rod … sceptre to rule—No more kings of David's stock are now to rule the nation. Not at least until "the Lord shall send the rod of His strength ("Messiah," Ps 110:2; Isa 11:1) out of Zion," to reign first as a spiritual, then hereafter as a literal king.
is … and shall be for a lamentation—Part of the lamentation (that as to Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim) was matter of history as already accomplished; part (as to Zedekiah) was yet to be fulfilled; or, this prophecy both is a subject for lamentation, and shall be so to distant posterity.